Sunday, June 30, 2013

car wheels on a gravel road

Lucinda Williams spent three years recording and re-recording the songs for this rambling bluesy country travelogue with three different producers.  During the recording of her previous album 'Sweet Old World'she walked away from a contract with RCA because she was dissatisfied with the direction they were taking her music.  While that album did not chart, it garnished so much praise from critics that she was offered a deal with major label Mercury/Polygram Records.  

She began recording the songs for 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' with guitarist and producer Gurf Morlix in Austin, Texas; but was unhappy with the way they sounded.  A year later she started again.  This time with songwriter Steve Earle and his engineer Ray Kennedy in Nashville, Tennesee on vintage recording equipment.  Earle and Williams butted heads and she made the decision to start again in Los Angeles with Roy Bittan keyboardist for the E-Street Band.  She spent a lot of time experimenting with different approaches on each song and the sessions went on for months.  

The sessions featured Lucinda Williams on vocals, acoustic guitar, and Dobro guitar; Gurf Morlix on electric guitar, 12 string electric guitar, electric slide guitar, harmony vocal, and acoustic slide guitar; John Ciambotti on bass guitar and upright bass; Donald Lindley on drums and percussion; Buddy Miller on acoustic guitar, mando guitar, harmony vocal, and electric guitar; Ray Kennedy on 12 string electric guitar; Greg Leisz on 12 string electric guitar and mandolin; Roy Bittan on Hammond B3 organ, accordion, and organ; Jim Lauderdale on harmony vocal; Charlie Sexton on electric guitar and Dobro guitar; Steve Earle on acoustic guitar, harmonica, harmony vocal, and resonator guitar; Johnny Lee Schell on electric guitar, electric slide guitar, and Dobro guitar; Bo Ramsey on electric guitar and slide guitar; Micheal Smotherman on B-3 organ; Richard “Hombre” Price on Dobro guitar; and Emmylou Harris on harmony vocal.  

Williams said at the time:     ''Everybody thinks I'm such a perfectionist.  That's what's so frustrating. A million people could tell me this album's great, and it won't matter if I don't feel that way in my gut. It's the whole art thing...I just have this horrible fear of being overproduced.  Just listen to the radio or watch MTV. All the edge is taken off. I'm trying to keep the edge on.''

'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' became her first album to chart and her big breakthrough, going to number one hundred and forty-four in the UK, sixty-nine in Australia, sixty-five in the US, sixty in Sweden, fourteen on the US RPM country chart, and number five on the Australian country chart.  The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

"Right in Time" – 4:35

"Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" – 4:44

"2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten" – 4:42

"Drunken Angel" – 3:20

"Concrete and Barbed Wire" – 3:08

"Lake Charles" – 5:27

"Can’t Let Go" (Randy Weeks) – 3:28

"I Lost It" – 3:31

"Metal Firecracker" – 3:30

"Greenville" – 3:23
Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals

"Still I Long For Your Kiss" (Williams, Duane Jarvis) – 4:09

"Joy" – 4:01

"Jackson" – 3:42

Saturday, June 29, 2013

a saucerful of secrets

Pink Floyd expanded and contracted with the innovative space rock of this artful psychedelic evolution.  In the wake of the success of their classic debut 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'the band found themselves increasingly disturbed by the erratic behavior of front man Syd Barrett.   During live performances he might detune his guitar or he might simply stand with his arms at his side and stare blankly out into space.  Interviews didn't fare any better.  They began sessions for 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' at EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London and continued at De Lane Lea Studios on Kingsway.  In late 1967, David Gilmour was brought in as a second guitarist to fill in the gaps left by Barrett.  As the sessions continued, the band played a few gigs as a five piece with Barrett occasionally taking part in the proceedings.  Picking up the different members on the way to a show at Southampton University the rest of the band decided to save themselves the trouble and not stop and get Barrett, signaling the end of his tenure with the band he started.      

With their primary songwriter out of the picture, the rest of the band began composing material that could fill out their album.  The lengthy title suite was pieced together from several different songs (I. "Something Else",  II. "Syncopated Pandemonium",  III. "Storm Signal", and  IV. "Celestial Voices") and mapped out in what Gilmour describes as an "architectural design".  Producer Norman Smith refused to take part in the recording of the track, dismissing it as "noise".

The album featured Roger Waters on bass guitar, percussion, and vocals; Richard Wright on piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, xylophone, vocals, and tin whistle; David Gilmour on guitar, kazoo, and vocals; Nick Mason on drums, percussion, vocals, and kazoo; and Syd Barrett on acoustic guitar, slide guitar, guitar, and vocals; with producer Norman Smith on drums and backing vocals; and The Salvation Army (The International Staff Band) on "Jugband Blues".  

'A Saucerful Of Secrets' went to number ten in France and nine in the UK.  The album cover was designed by Hipgnosis.

'Scream Thy Last Scream / Vegetable Man'
were Barrett compositions that were recorded during the sessions; but not included on 'A Saucerful of Secrets'

'Apples and Oranges' was released as a single during the recording of 'A Saucerful of Secrets'; but it never charted.

'Paint Box' was the b-side to 'Apples and Oranges'

"It Would Be So Nice" was another non-album single that didn't chart.

"In the Beechwoods" was a Barrett composition that was not used on the album.

"Sunshine" was another Barrett song that didn't make the final cut.

'Under Review' documentary

'A Saucerful Of Secrets'

full album:

Side one
1. "Let There Be More Light"   (Roger Waters)  vocals by Richard Wright, Waters, David Gilmour 5:38
2. "Remember a Day"   (Wright)  vocals by Wright 4:33
3. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"   (Waters)  vocals by Waters 5:28
4. "Corporal Clegg"   (Waters)  vocals by Gilmour, Nick Mason, Wright 4:13
Side two
1. "A Saucerful of Secrets"
I. "Something Else" (3:57)
II. "Syncopated Pandemonium" (3:07)
III. "Storm Signal" (1:34)
IV. "Celestial Voices" (3:19)"  
(Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason) Instrumental, wordless vocals by  Gilmour, Wright 11:57
2. "See-Saw"   (Wright)  vocals by Wright 4:36
3. "Jugband Blues"   (Syd Barrett)  vocals by Barrett 3:00

Friday, June 28, 2013

real animal

Alejandro Escovedo went back to his rock and roll roots for the recording of this primal reflection of his past.  After his bout with hepatitis C, he recorded the artistic triumph of 'The Boxing Mirror' with producer John Cale.   For the followup, 'Real Animal', he ended up working with producer Tony Visconti.  The sessions featured Alejandro Escovedo on guitar, harmonica, and vocals; Chuck Prophet on guitar and background vocals; Susan Voelz on violin and background vocals; Tony Visconti on organ and background vocals; Hector Muñoz on percussion, drums,  and background vocals; Josh Gravelin on bass, keyboards, and background vocals; Brian Standefer on cello, and background vocals; David Pulkingham on guitar, keyboards, and background vocals; and Brad Grable on baritone and tenor saxophones.  

Escovedo considers the more rock oriented sound of the album:    "It kind of embodies the primitive music I love – the primitive aspect of the rock and roll I love, beginning in the early days. Growing up in San Antonio, listening to Jerry Lee, Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, you know, that sort of stuff. And then into the English rock and the American garage rock I love so much. It’s always been part of that primitive quality of rock and roll that I’ve always loved a lot and always tried to stay close to in one way or another, even when I use strings. And the other part of it is the survival instinct, the animal quality these people have had that I love – you mentioned Lou Reed, I think of Iggy Pop. I think of a lot of different people who have that sort of survival instinct in them, much like an animal would. To me, that’s what it sums up, really...Maybe instinctively I knew I didn’t want to venture back into that dark, melancholy kind of area I’d mined for so long, especially with The Boxing Mirror, the record I made immediately after I was ill and I was still recovering from that illness while I was recording it. And I’ve said this before, but I was so caught up emotionally because of those years and not being able to play, wondering if I ever would play again, and then finally making another record, I hadn’t really exorcised all those feelings. So with this record I wanted to step away from all that. And by telling this story, this autobiographical story, this musical memoir, let’s say, I was able to step back and look at it more like Chuck Prophet and I were constructing a movie. So that lent a little distance to it. And yet I was able to flesh out all these characters and bands. And it’s funny, but I feel like I even dug deeper in a way. Maybe not on an emotional level, but maybe in making an assessment of where I’ve been and where all that music and those bands have brought me."

"Always A Friend" – 3:35

'Real Animal'

full album:

All tracks composed by Alejandro Escovedo and Chuck Phophet

"Always a Friend" – 3:35
"Chelsea Hotel '78" – 3:30
"Sister Lost Soul" – 4:16
"Smoke" – 4:23
"Sensitive Boys" – 4:29
"People (We're Only Gonna Live So Long)" – 3:21
"Golden Bear" – 3:58
"Nuns Song" – 4:50
"Real As An Animal" – 3:05
"Hollywood Hills" – 3:42
"Swallows of San Juan" – 4:06
"Chip N' Tony" - 3:10
"Slow Down" - 4:09

Thursday, June 27, 2013

mermaid avenue

Billy Bragg and Wilco teamed up to write music for unreleased songs by Woody Guthrie and recorded them for this loose and lively folk rock collaboration.  After Bragg performed at a Guthrie tribute concert in New York's Central Park, he was contacted by Guthrie's daughter Nora about putting music to the lyrics of songs selected from volumes that Guthrie had written but never recorded.  

Bragg reveals:     “She was frustrated to see her father made precious and reduced to an icon. He was an iconoclast, not an icon.  Nora helped me to overcome my initial feelings of being daunted by taking on this huge icon because she had already worked out what she wanted to do and that was, ‘The legend is over there and we’re going over here where everything is unknown. So everything you know about Woody, forget'.  Woody came from the English folk-song tradition, songs of 30 verses and no reprise. It helped to know that because it gave me my parameters. At one end you had that Elizabethan ballad tradition, at the other ‘supersonic boogie' and everything in between is permissible.  I would argue he’s the last of that ballad tradition and on the cusp of where folk music stops being folk and became music where people know who wrote it. He was the first singer-songwriter.  Our job was to take the idea forward, but in that one moment we reached back to the man himself and kept the faith with him, with Marjorie his wife who kept the lyrics, with Nora who set up the archive...By recording that and locking in to that particular emotion l felt we underscored the entire project with his lyric, ‘But I feel like this scribbling will stay’.  And nobody would have thought if you added Billy Bragg to Woody Guthrie you would have ended up with Mermaid Avenue and I’m happy with that.  I feel I’ve overcome expectations about myself and Woody -- and he hasn’t made his last record, this is just the first for 50 years...We're not being revisionist.  We are hacking away 50 years of people trying to make him a saint or a communist.  We're cutting down to the real person who had moments of terrible doubt, as in Another Man Done Gone, went out with his seamen buddies, whose love of his wife was part of his whole apprerciation of the role of women -- and wanted to bed Ingrid Bergman.  That’s a lot of Guthrie, but it was all him and you can’t have one without the other.”

The sessions for 'Mermaid Avenue' took place in Dublin, Chicago, and Boston and were produced by Billy Bragg, Wilco, and Grant Showbiz and featured Billy Bragg on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, National guitar, bouzouki, banjo, lead vocals, backing vocals, and handclaps; Jeff Tweedy on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, lead vocals, backing vocals, and handclaps; Jay Bennett on piano, Hammond B-3 organ, clavinet, grand piano, melodica, Farfisa organ, Farfisa bass pedals, drums, percussion, bouzouki, dulcimer, banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, electric bass, backing vocals, and handclaps; Corey Harris on electric guitar, lap steel guitar, backing vocals, and handclaps; Ken Coomer on drums, percussion, backing vocals, and handclaps; Natalie Merchant on lead vocals and backing vocals; John Stirratt on electric bass, acoustic bass, bass pedals, bass piano, Hammond B-3 organ, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, handclaps; Peter Yanowitz on chorus drums; Bob Egan on pedal steel and slide guitar; Eliza Carthy on violin; Johnathan "JP" Parker on backing vocals; and Elizabeth Steen on accordion.  

Man in the Sand documentary

"Walt Whitman's Niece"

"California Stars" 

"Birds and Ships" ft Natalie Merchant 

Billy Bragg & Wilco ft Natalie Merchant - Birds and Ships lyrics from Fanni Szappanos on Vimeo.

"Christ for President" 

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions

All lyrics written by Woody Guthrie. Music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

Volume 1
"Walt Whitman's Niece" (Bragg) – 3:53
"California Stars" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:57
"Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (Bragg) – 4:06
"Birds and Ships" ft Natalie Merchant (Tweedy) – 2:13
"Hoodoo Voodoo" (Tweedy / Bennett / Bragg / John Stirratt / Ken Coomer / Harris) – 3:12
"She Came Along to Me" (Bragg / Tweedy / Bennett) – 3:26
"At My Window Sad and Lonely" (Tweedy) – 3:27
"Ingrid Bergman" (Bragg) – 1:50
"Christ for President" (Bragg) – 2:39
"I Guess I Planted" (Bragg) – 3:32
"One by One" (Tweedy) – 3:22
"Eisler on the Go" (Bragg) – 2:56
"Hesitating Beauty" (Tweedy) – 3:04
"Another Man's Done Gone" (Tweedy) – 1:34
"The Unwelcome Guest" (Bragg) – 5:09
Volume 2
"Airline to Heaven" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:50
"My Flying Saucer"  (Bragg) – 1:45
"Feed of Man" (Tweedy) – 4:08
"Hot Rod Hotel"  (Bragg)  – 3:17
"I Was Born"  (Bragg)  – 1:50
"Secret of the Sea" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 2:42
"Stetson Kennedy"  (Bragg)  – 2:39
"Remember the Mountain Bed" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 6:26
"Blood of the Lamb" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:16
"Aginst th' Law"  (Bragg)  – 3:03
"All You Fascists"  (Bragg)  – 2:43
"Joe DiMaggio Done It Again"  (Bragg)  – 2:31
"Meanest Man"  (Bragg)  – 3:46
"Black Wind Blowing"  (Bragg) – 3:00
"Someday Some Morning Sometime" (Tweedy) – 2:53
Volume 3
"Bugeye Jim" – 3:18
"When the Roses Bloom Again" – 4:11
"Gotta Work" – 2:16
"My Thirty Thousand" – 2:40
"Ought to Be Satisfied Now" – 3:34
"Listening to the Wind That Blows" – 5:07
"Go Down to the Water" – 4:36
"Chain of Broken Hearts" – 3:31
"Jailcell Blues" – 2:28
"Don't You Marry" – 3:18
"Give Me a Nail" – 1:42
"The Jolly Banker" – 3:31
"Union Prayer" – 4:12
"Be Kind to the Boy on the Road" – 3:46
"Ain'ta Gonna Grieve" – 4:52
"Tea Bag Blues" – 4:03
"I'm Out to Get" – 3:58

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

live wire / blues power

Albert King captured lightning in a bottle with the steamy performances of this triumphant tour de force.  Born (under a bad sign)  Albert Nelson  in Indianola, MS, and raised in Forrest City, AR; as a child he taught himself to play by building a guitar out of a cigar box.  He started out playing in gospel groups until he was exposed to the blues; he adopted the surname King after hearing a single by B.B. King.  He migrated from Arkansas to St. Louis where he began recording for Bobbin Records.  The left-handed guitarist played a regular right-handed guitar upside down, a Gibson Flying V, which he named Lucy, in homage to B.B. King's Lucille.   He recorded one session for King Records and then cut four songs for independent label Coun-Tree, before signing with Stax Records in 1966. He recorded a number of singles with the house band Booker T. & the MG's which were compiled onto his classic Stax debut 'Born Under a Bad Sign' which exposed him to a more diverse audience.  'Live Wire/Blues Power' was recorded live at the Fillmore West in San Francisco  with Albert King on electric guitar and vocals; Willie James Exon on guitar; James Washington on organ; Roosevelt Pointer on bass; and Theotis Morgan on drums.

"Watermelon Man" (Herbie Hancock) – 4:04

"Blues Power" (King) – 10:18

"Night Stomp" (Raymond Jackson, King) – 5:49

"Blues At Sunrise" (King) – 8:44

"Please Love Me" (B.B. King, Jules Taub) – 4:01
"Look Out" (King) – 5:20

'Live Wire/Blues Power' 
full album:

01 - Watermelon Man 00:00
02 - Blues Power 04:03
03 - Night Stomp 14:20
04 - Blues At Sunrise 20:09
05 - Please Love Me 28:53
06 - Look Out 32:51